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Smith Community Organizes Tsunami Relief Efforts

By Eric Sean Weld

When vast regions of south Asia and east Africa were devastated by an earthquake and tsunami on December 26, the Smith community joined much of the rest of the world in launching numerous efforts to raise money and gather supplies for victims of the disaster.

“As our students, faculty and staff return to campus, I have been moved by all the ways in which the Smith community has been seeking to help,” wrote President Carol T. Christ in January in a statement on the college Web site about the outpouring of relief efforts.

During January, Smith’s Staff Council collected more than 15 boxes of personal hygiene items, such as shampoo, soap and combs, from the college community. The items were sent to hard-hit areas of coastal Sri Lanka. Meanwhile at the Smith College Campus School, kindergarteners and sixth-grade students teamed up for a bake sale to raise funds for the cause. Smith’s track team helped bake cookies, muffins and brownies, sixth-graders produced signs to advertise the event, and the kindergarteners sold enough goodies to raise $400 for the Save the Children’s tsunami relief fund.

Also in January, Smith’s bookstore, the Grécourt Bookshop, collected donations, which were contributed to the American Red Cross International Response Fund.

When students returned to campus after interterm break, they organized and launched an array of relief efforts on behalf of victims of the disasters. On February 7, several student groups coordinated a fund-raiser featuring Sri Lankan desserts. Smith Democrats held a “liberal date auction” on February 11 and donated part of the proceeds to tsunami victims, and the Student Government Association raised funds through an auction a week later for the same cause. In late February, students formed a Smith Coalition for Tsunami Relief and held a fund-raiser throughout the month in which student houses collected donations, culminating with a benefit dinner on February 21 in the Campus Center.

Students have also acted individually. Aliyah Shanti ’08 was already traveling with her father, David Albert, in southern India when the tsunami hit. In its aftermath, they helped with the distribution of food to some 70,000 people affected by the Indian Ocean tsunamis.

While there, Shanti reported her experience in an ongoing Web log (shantinik.blogspot.com), which is still active. “Entire streets are a tangle of electric wires, chests of drawers, cast-off clothing and water packets,” wrote she and her father in a January 3 entry. “The smell is a mix of rotting seafood and rotting bodies.”
Although news of the tsunami -- which claimed more than 150,000 lives and caused incalculable damage -- has receded from international media headlines, local efforts have continued. On March 4, Eve de la Mothe Karoubi ’06 joined several Amherst College students in organizing a runway fashion show, which raised $3,500 for the World Health Organization on behalf of tsunami victims. Subsequent events for March and April were also planned.

More than a dozen international students from countries affected by the tsunamis -- India, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka -- attend Smith. Fortunately, none of the students, or their families, was directly affected.

 
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